January is the perfect time to review your finances for the year ahead – make it your New Year resolution to make the most of your money. Here are some ideas to help you do just that.
Spread the cost of next Christmas
The festive season is one of the most expensive times of the year – and leaves many of us with the hangover of credit card, loan or store card debt.
Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy your next Christmas knowing it’s already paid for? A Park Christmas Account offers an easy, convenient way to shop and budget for the perfect family Christmas by spreading the cost throughout the year.
Here’s how to start:
- Visit www.getpark.co.uk and browse our catalogue.
- Create an account, or call our friendly Careline Team on 03457 678 933.
- Take your pick from thousands of gifts, toys, hampers and vouchers and place your order online.
- Make regular payments with a plan tailored to suit your budget.
- Avoid the last-minute rush as, once you’re paid up, we’ll deliver your goods to your door.
There’s no interest or hidden charges to pay and your orders and payments are easy to track online. Best of all, budgeting with Park means a stress-free countdown to Christmas and a debt-free New Year!
Profit from unwanted Christmas presents
Most families end up with a few unwanted presents each year – or perhaps you received one too many jumpers or two of the same thing. Don’t just stuff them in the back of a cupboard. You could:
- sell them online, through Amazon or eBay;
- sell them through the small ads in your local paper; or
- ‘re-gift’ them – wrap them up again and use them as birthday presents throughout the year. Just make sure you don’t give something back to the person who gave it to you in the first place!
Set up a birthday gift cupboard
Save yourself cash as well as last minute panic by spreading your birthday gift shopping throughout the year. Be on the lookout for bargains all year round, then stash them in a designated ‘gift cupboard’ (preferably one that’s high up, away from prying little eyes).
This allows you to take advantage of a greater choice of deals. You can pick up items that you’d buy anyway when they’re on offer, rather than picking them up at the last minute and perhaps paying more.
Make a list of the birthdays you want to buy for throughout the year and stick it to the inside of the cupboard door so that you can cross people off as you buy for them.
If your budget allows, take advantage of multiple-buy deals to stock up for party bag fillers and gifts for the kids to take to friends’ birthday parties.
Remember to check ‘use-by’ dates if you’re buying food or snacks and keep receipts in case you need to return any items.
Make the most of local facilities
The New Year is traditionally a time when we commit to improving our lifestyles, whether that’s spending more time as a family, getting healthier or losing weight (especially if you’ve overindulged over the festive period).
This doesn’t have to cost a fortune:
- Going for long walks in your local park is free, healthy and a great family outing – you can even take the dog along! Some parks offer free or low-cost activities, such as nature trails – fun, healthy and educational.
- Your local leisure centre or swimming pool will be much cheaper than a gym membership. Check your local council’s website to see what facilities or clubs they offer.
- Lots of hobbies cost hardly anything to start. For example, take up knitting and crocheting – you can buy wool, needles and patterns cheaply in charity shops. As well as learning a fun new skill, if you find you have a flair you could also make clothes and gifts for family and friends – or even sell your creations!
- A trip to see a film can cost a fortune, especially once you’ve paid out for everyone’s popcorn and fizzy drinks (this is where cinemas make the most profit). But cinemas often offer cheap days or special family rates – check ahead. You can also stock up on your drinks and snacks beforehand at the supermarket – your money will go much further.
Most supermarket own-brands are just as good as the ‘big brand’ versions – sometimes they’re even better – and can help you shrink your weekly shopping bill significantly.
If family members object to not having the big name brands, try turning it into a taste-testing game. For example, buy a tin of your usual brand baked beans as well as a cheaper version and use them in separate meals during the week – challenge the kids to see if they can guess which is which!
You could even be sneaky and refill a more expensive container, such a box of cornflakes or bottle of ketchup, with a cheaper, own-brand version – chances are no one will notice the difference!
Review all your insurances
Review your insurance policies. Can you get them cheaper elsewhere? Why not go to one of the many online price comparison websites to see if you can save money.
If you ended up spending more than you meant to last year, start the new year as you mean to go on with a budget plan.
Make a list of all the money you have coming in on either a weekly or monthly basis and total it up. Then add together all of your outgoings for the same period – don’t forget things like mobile phone top-ups, the kids’ dinner money and nights out, as well as any standing orders or direct debits you’ve got set up. The idea is that the first figure is higher than the second!
If you’ve got money left over, consider how to make it work as hard as possible for you. Could you use it to pay more off a loan or credit card (the quicker you pay it off, the less interest you’ll be charged in the long run) or put it into a savings account?
If you’re spending more than you’ve got coming in, it’s time to work out where you can make adjustments. There will be costs you have no control over, such as your rent/mortgage payment or council tax bill, but you could look at ways to lower your food bill or cut back on entertainment. Set a budget for spending on these areas – and stick to it!
A handy online budget planning tool is available on the Government’s Money Advice Service.